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Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your overall health and well-being. However, several factors can affect your sleep, especially your diet. What you eat and drink has a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Discover what foods and drinks you should be eating more of to support your sleep and what foods and drinks you should avoid because they could be disrupting your much-needed shut-eye. Try the sleep diet for yourself and see if you notice a difference in your quality of sleep!
Sleep and digestion are interconnected. When we get plenty of restful sleep, our digestive organs have the chance to rest and repair, promoting healthy digestion. While on the other hand, a lack of sleep can increase stress levels and inflammation and cause changes in your gut microbiota, leading to digestive problems. That is why it’s important to maintain a regular sleep schedule and get enough sleep to support digestion and prevent digestive issues.
Getting enough sleep offers numerous benefits, from enhancing our focus, reducing inflammation, improving athletic performance, and even extending our lifespan. That’s why it is important to maintain a healthy diet not only to support digestive health but also to promote better sleep.
Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds are an excellent snack for helping you sleep well. They’re rich in magnesium, a mineral that promotes relaxation and sleep. They also contain tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid that helps the body make both serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and helps you fall asleep faster, and melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycles.
Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are great for sleep because they promote the production of serotonin. Pairing carbohydrates with a calcium-rich food—cheese and crackers, cereal and milk, blueberries and yogurt—helps boost your serotonin levels. The added calcium also helps your body relax by regulating muscle movement and supports melatonin production.
Lean protein sources like turkey, fish, hummus, and cottage cheese contain amino acids that promote the production of melatonin. Protein also takes longer to digest, slowing down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and stabilizing blood sugar so you can get a good night’s sleep.
Chamomile, mint, and lavender herbal teas are known for their relaxing properties. They can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. In fact, one of the reasons why chamomile tea is particularly beneficial before bedtime is due to its glycine content. Glycine helps relax the nerves and muscles and increases serotonin production, helping to restore healthy sleep patterns and encourage deeper, more restful and refreshing sleep.
Just be sure not to sip on caffeinated tea too late in the day! While green tea also contains glycine, its caffeine content might keep you up later than you’d like.
Some foods and drinks can promote a good night of sleep, but others can hinder restful sleep. The following foods and drinks should be avoided if you’re looking to improve your sleep because they can interfere with your body’s natural sleep cycle, either through indigestion, acid reflux, restlessness, or wakefulness.
While initially promoting sleep, alcohol can actually disrupt your sleep later in the night and cause snoring, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems. Alcohol interferes with REM sleep, a restorative stage of sleep that is essential for memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and cognitive restoration.
Often a favorite late-night craving, high-fat foods like pizza, burgers, and fried snacks can cause indigestion and increase your risk of acid reflux, causing discomfort and making it difficult to fall asleep, which can ultimately interfere with your sleep cycle.
Additionally, studies in mice have found that high-fat foods bring about not only weight gain but a decreased sensitivity to the brain chemical orexin, which helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms.
Spicy foods can cause heartburn and acid reflux, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Research also shows that consuming spicy red peppers can increase your body’s core temperature, which can disrupt your sleep. Since your core temperature naturally decreases as you get ready to sleep, raising it can cause you to feel more awake and make it difficult for your body to make the temperature transition and signal that you’re ready for sleep.
Sugar can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, disrupting your sleep. Persistently high blood sugar levels have been linked to sleep apnea, frequent nighttime urination, and restless leg syndrome, all of which can interfere with your sleep. It’s best to avoid sugary foods and drinks before bed, including candy, cookies, sugary drinks, and even chocolate. Chocolate is a hidden source of caffeine, which can cause increased arousal and decrease your ability to advance into the deeper stages of sleep.
Your diet plays a significant role in your sleep quality. To promote better sleep, it’s best to eat nuts and seeds, carbohydrates and calcium, lean protein, and drink herbal tea. And try to avoid alcohol, high-fat foods, spicy foods, and sugar before bed.
By making these dietary changes and following the sleep diet, you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, leading to better overall health and well-being.
Want to learn more about what foods and drinks to eat and avoid? Check out these two videos from our sleep expert Lissa Coffey: